Ardanaiseig Hotel, on the banks of Loch Awe in Argyll, has been chosen by the editors of the Good Hotel Guide 2017 as their favourite Country House Hotel and Romantic Hotel in Scotland. It is the only hotel chosen in Scotland in both categories. This speaks volumes about Ardanaiseig and I’m delighted that there’s at least one hotel north of the border cutting it.
But, like many parents, I often veer towards ‘family friendly’ establishments. I worry that if I take two small children somewhere especially ‘nice’ the atmosphere will be compromised for other guests. Firstly, I had to point out to myself that there are plenty of luxury hotels that simply do not welcome children, or do not welcome under twelves, therefore if people wish to avoid ‘little people’ it’s pretty easy to do so. Ardanaiseig welcomes all ages therefore we could all relax and that’s the bottom line. So what was it like visiting a luxurious and romantic Scottish hotel with two toddlers in tow?
LOCATION – Ardanaiseig is in a remote location, somewhere people escape to. As we drove up the winding drive and saw the country house with its atmospheric patina of age, it felt like we’d arrived somewhere quite magical.
CHECK IN – We were welcomed and checked in by Mario. Due to the remote location of Ardanaiseig the staff ‘live in’ so they literally live and breathe the hotel. Service is personal and hugely welcoming. We were given a brief tour of the common areas which included a particularly beautiful Christmas tree which mesmerised me as much as the children.
THE ROOM – We were led to the Kilchurn room which is a large, sumptuous space. The toddler bed and travel cot were waiting for us, as well as a vast and elegant four poster bed. The bed was so expansive that when both our children decided to join us in the dead of the night I, the mother, had plenty of room rather than falling asleep on a wafer-thin knife edge (climbers who bivouac on cliff shelves have nothing on mums who do this for years on end). The Kilchurn room was spacious enough to include a dressing table, a lounge area with sofa and television, as well as a seating area with two large armchairs – it felt very indulgent getting ready for dinner at my own dressing table (despite the noise of the kids in the background). We, as a family, could relax in so much space.
DINING – We were given two options. Dine in the Drawing Room with the children’s menu, last orders before 6pm. Or take a table in the restaurant with the a la carte menu from 7pm onwards. We opted for the early dinner with the children’s menu and arrived to a table set in a stunning room just for us. We were the only guests dining here as we were the only ones with tots dining from the children’s menu.
The Ardanaiseig restaurant has an excellent reputation. Tony Singh trained here back in the day. But I hadn’t realised that if we dined in the Drawing Room the adults would be offered a bar meal whereas the A La Carte menu looked delicious. So we fed our children at 6pm, then ate ourselves at 7pm. Fish Goujons for Mr Toddler, Tomato Pasta for Mr Baby and Seared Isle of Mull Scallops, Breast of Guinea Fowl with roast garlic and braised cabbage, and a Dark Chocolate Pot with Beetroot Jam for me. Mr Husband had Braised Shoulder and Cheek of Pork to start, Charred Sirloin of Angus Beef as a main and Granny Smith Apple Fritters for dessert. It was worth waiting for.
The surroundings were desperately Downton. As we finished, most ‘romantic’ guests were having their pre-dinner drinks in the bar so we didn’t intrude on any prospective proposals or moments. And we weren’t ghettoised by being placed in the Drawing Room, I felt we were elevated as it’s a beautiful room, and we’d always been made welcome to dine in the restaurant if we’d chosen that path.
THE GROUNDS – As we’d arrived after dark it was only the next day we saw the views of Loch Awe from the window. Scotland at its best. After breakfast we explored the extensive grounds. From a Walled Garden, to a small play fort, to the aged plants and trees creeping overhead and underfoot. The grounds are atmospheric and have their own history. All quite Secret Garden.
I can see why Ardanaiseig is a renowned wedding destination. The amphitheatre which overlooks the loch is where outdoor wedding ceremonies often take place. Rose Cottage offers self-catering accommodation and the renovated Boathouse is a modern accommodation option with breathtaking views and privacy, anyone can book the exclusive Boathouse but it’s often used by brides and grooms on their wedding night.
The loch itself is still, eery and seems to go on forever. As I said, Scotland at its best. Mr Husband described Ardanaiseig as a place to read books, relax and make babies, but whether you’re seeking a special place to spend with the love of your life, or a country escape with the little, cute, noisy, playful loves of your life, there’s room for you on the shores of Loch Awe.
THE LOWDOWN – We drove direct from Aberdeen (about 4.5-5 hours) stopping at Noah’s Ark Soft Play in Perth for lunch and a run around for the kids. Do contact Ardanaiseig at HELLO@ARDANAISEIG.COM or telephone 01866 833 333 to find out more.
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